Installing a Package of Bees
How To Install A Package of Bees
Installing a package of bees is confusing at times. The fact that you are reading this page may indicate that you are somewhat rusty or unsure of installing a package of bees. That's to be expected. I'm glad you came here and now, let me help calm your fears. First, I have to be brutally honest and let you know that beekeeping is hard. It's a fun and enjoyable hobby, but it's very challenging keeping bees alive. You've invested a considerable amount of time and money. You have spent over $100 for bees, several hundred for a hive and more in your equipment and protective gear. Please consider investing another $59 for my online course. In my ONLINE Basic Beekeeping Course, I'll walk you through installing bees and getting started. There are so many opinions. Do you really trust the fellow at the bee club? Warning! Without the basic fundamentals under your belt, you are much more likely to lose your bees the first year. Statistics show that approx. 70-80% of first timers are out of beekeeping after their first year. I think it is because of their lack of knowledge.
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First, you must purchase your beekeeping equipment. Do not wait until spring to purchase your hive kits. Many places are sold out or back logged in the spring so you must order your hives between now and May. This year you can order a hive and a package now. Click here for more info.
Bees come in a box is equipped with a sugar water dispenser and a cage to keep the queen separate from the bees.
To prepare for the arrival of your bees, or if you are picking them up here, you will want to purchase a new spray bottle and mix sugar water, one part water to one part sugar. Do not use old spray bottles that have been used with other chemicals as this could make the bees sick or kill them. Have your new spray bottle ready when your bees arrive.
Try to keep the package in a shaded or dark place in the car or truck. If you use a truck, try to avoid excessive wind damage that may occur if you place your bees in the bed of your truck. If you have to travel a long distance at interstate speed, and the bees are in the bed of your truck, place something around them, protecting them from the wind, while also providing sufficient air flow. Bees must have air to breathe just like us!
Sometimes, the weather might be too wet or cold to install your bees the same day they arrive. In this case visit my "How To Install A Package In Bad Weather" page.
If you see a few bees on the outside of your package, do not panic. It does not usually mean there is a leak. It usually means that a few bees have been clinging to the outside of the package for thousands of miles. But do check to make sure the box is sealed well.
Will the bees in the package sting you? Honeybees can always sting. However, you will find that by spraying them with sugar water, they are very calm. And, since they do not have any brood or honey to protect, they are not trying to defend their hive. Technically they don't have a queen either. Their morale is low, so they are not aggressive at all. When I install packages, I do not wear gloves or hat and veil. I would not recommend it to you, because you don't want a bad experience on your first installation, but you will find the bees to be very gentle. Work with confidence! This lesson continues but please watch my video on how to install a package.
Now, here's how you can effectively install your bees in your new hive. Choose a good time of the day, when it is sunny, warm and not too windy. Mid to late afternoon works well. Be sure and take all your equipment to where you will install your package. You will need the following items:
1) Spray bottle with sugar water (1:1 ratio)
2) Hive tool
3) A wood screw (for removing queen cage cork)
4) A comfortable amount of protective clothing
Be sure your new hive equipment is where you want your hive to be. At this point, you will only need your bottom board, 1 deep hive body, 10 frames and foundation, inner and top cover. Remove 4 of the center frames from the new hive body. This is where you will shake your bees into. Spray all 10 frames, both sides, with the 1:1 sugar water mixture. This will attract the bees to the foundation and give them a warm welcome to their new home. Bees love sugar!
Also, before you install your package, you'll want to use our Burns Bees Feeding System on the top of your new hive when feeding in the spring. Our system allows you to change your sugar jars while keeping the bees below the screen. You can also add a little dose of protein powder to your 1:1 sugar water to help your bees obtain the spring protein they need. Click here to order now.
Now, spray the package thoroughly on both sides of the screen, front and back. This will calm the bees, keep them well-nourished and keep them from flying about so much during the installation process. Be prepared for sticky hands and fingers.
Now, you will want to begin opening your package. Do not be afraid. Millions of bees are not going to rush out at you. Work with confidence and enjoy the activity.
To open the package, first remove the top panel. It is stapled on to the box. Staples are sharp, so don't cut yourself on the staples once the panel is removed. Use your hive tool to pry open the panel. But, be careful with your hive tool. The end is very sharp too, and if the tool should slip, it can poke or cut you.
Once you remove the top panel, NO bees will come out yet. This panel simply holds the feeding container in place as well as the white strap that has the queen cage on the opposite end, inside the package.
The bees may become noisy which is normal. Spray them again if you need to calm them. They are becoming loud not because you are making them mad, but simply because of the sunlight and air. They are ready to do what bees do. Make a hive and gather nectar. Stay calm and confident!
Now you see the top of the tin can of sugar as well as the white queen cage strap. The queen cage strap is also stapled to the top of the box. Free this strap, but do not let it fall into the package of bees.
Gently tip the package of bees over the new hive, positioning it over the center where the 4 frames have been removed. Slide the sugar tin can out a little so you can get an easier grip on it. Sometimes the can comes out easily, and sometimes it is very tight and has to be wiggled out with considerable effort. It will come out.
Once you are ready, pull the can all the way out. At this point, the bees will have access to the great outdoors, specifically, their new hive. They will be attracted to the beeswax and sugar coated foundation awaiting them. Set the can of sugar water aside, holes facing up so it doesn't leak.
You will need to pull out the queen cage now, prior to shaking the bees or else it will fall into the hive. If it does, no problem.
The queen is okay, just remove the cage and place it on top of the hive off to the side from where you'll be pouring your bees.
Now begin shaking your bees out of the package and into the new hive. Shake as hard as you want and you'll start seeing them pour into the new hive. You may also want to firmly strike the side of the package with the palm of your hand to free bees that are hanging on to the screen. However, be sure not to strike a bee when striking the side of the box or you might smash a bee just enough to get stung. Notice in the picture, I'm using an entrance feeder because this is an old photo. Entrance feeders are from the old paradigm of beekeeping. These do not work well IF and WHEN on cold spring days when temps dip below 50 and bees cluster. They will not break cluster to feed. Instead, we suggest my Burns Bees Feeding System that will feed your spring packages even on cold days! Click here to order yours today.
Now you must install your queen. Slow release method is the best. These are not her bees, and she is not the queen they are used to YET! So, you must let them get to know her before she can roam freely among her new hive. Here's how. The queen cage has a screen on top and through the screen you can identify a white candy substance at one end. This is the end that you will HAVE TO remove the cork. DO NOT REMOVE THE CORK AT THE OPPOSITE END OF THE CANDY. Only remove the cork from the candy end of the cage. A hive tool doesn't work well, but screwing in a small screw then pulling it out works well. Once the cork is out, you will see that the hole is still plugged with the white candy. GOOD! Do not disturb that candy plug. As the bees eat through the candy, they will become familiar with their new queen. Then, once the candy has bee eaten, she will emerge from her cage as queen of the hive and be readily accepted by her new workers. After all, they are ready for a queen themselves!
Once you've removed the cork, (or cap on plastic queen cages) you will want to place the cage between the frames in the center of the hives from the top. Notice how I use the pressure of the hive frames to hold the cage between the frames. I hang my queen cage with the candy side down. Some say to hang it with the candy up, incase her attendant bees within her cage die, they do not block her exit. However, bees are good about moving dead bees out of the way, and I want her to exit out onto the foundation.
PLAY CLOSE ATTENTION. YOU MUST REPLACE ALL 10 FRAMES!! If you don't, the bees will quickly make comb in place where your frames should have gone. This will be a mess. And they will attach their comb to your top cover and if you wait long enough, you will not be able to open your hive. SO YOU MUST REPLACE ALL 10 FRAMES before replacing the inner and top cover.
Do not place any other boxes on the hive just yet. You only need the one deep box. Let them draw out the comb, usually 6-8 frames, then you can place your second hive body on top. Once 6-8 frames of your second deep have been drawn out, you can start placing your supers on.
Great Job! You Did It!! Place the package box near the front of the hive because it will still have some bees that you were unable to shake out of it. These will find their way into the hive in a day or two.
If you fail to prepare your bees for winter, they will likely die. Check out our winter-bee-kind winter feeding system video below:
Check out all our upcoming beekeeping classes and our full line of beekeeping equipment we make right here in central Illinois.